If you haven’t been following Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) for the past two years, it might be time to get on board. This exciting team series is offering over $11 million in prize money in 2023 in a schedule that includes ten CSI5* competitions across Canada, the United States and Mexico, kicking off at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley BC, on May 25th.

MLSJ, co-founded by Keean White and Matthew Morrissey, returns to the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, MI, Mexico’s Club Hípico La Silla in Monterrey, Angelstone Tournaments in Erin, ON, the Ottawa Equestrian Tournaments at Wesley Clover Parks, and concludes at California’s Desert International Horse Park in December. A pair of new venues have joined the series this year –
CSI Greenwich in Connecticut (organized by Kent Farrington) and Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina.

Darrin Dlin and Jacqueline Patmore.

Darrin Dlin and Jacqueline Patmore. (Kim Gaudry photo)

During the season, eight teams battle it out for supremacy. Each squad is made up of four to six athletes, two of which must be ranked within the top 250 of the Longines World Rankings. Each team must participate at every event, including the finals. The format consists of one round and two jump-offs (a First Jump-Off and a Podium Jump-off), and all athletes will be allowed to participate in the Grand Prix at each event providing they are qualified. There are also healthy year-end bonuses on offer for both teams and individuals.

Every team must also have a manager. Jacqueline Patmore of Calgary, AB, has been in charge of the Northern Lights team since 2022, the only all-Canadian squad (except for Venezuelan Juan Ortiz, who gets a pass because he is such a nice guy). Returning riders are Vanessa Mannix, Sean Jobin and Tiffany Foster; team newbies for 2023 include Lexi Ray, Nikki Walker, Ali Ramsay, and Eric Krawitt.

Patmore explains what attracted her to the series. “Selfishly, it’s awesome for me to be involved at that level of the sport because as an athlete myself, I’m probably never gonna get there,” she says, laughing. “We had such a great group of riders last year, everyone got along so well, we had a really good energy. Everyone would show up to the ring for each other, even if it wasn’t a team event. It was a really nice group to be involved with.”

The manager’s role includes raising the money for the team lease fee, then choosing the riders and all of the organizing involved with getting to the shows. She briefly outlines how it all works.

“Depending on how you organize your team, with riders buying in or raising money, you could potentially make money back that way. And each team is organized differently; some team riders give a percentage [of prize money] back to the group; some get to keep it all. It’s really how each individual team chooses to organize the individual contracts they have with their riders.

“Once you buy in, then the riders get entry fees for three horses at every leg of the show, hotels and VIP paid for, so the only extra expense you’re responsible for would be your personal support staff and travel – but travel to Mexico is included.”

Like all horse sports, sponsorship is vital to survival. “It is up to each individual team to find their own sponsorship. Our title sponsor is ShowPlus, and they will do it again this year. Thunderbird Show Park also supported us last year. Some teams probably operate solely on the rider buy-in, but I am trying to keep as many of the costs down as I possibly can for everybody.”

While during the first two seasons teams were leased, “Going forward, you can now buy a team; they’re franchising them,” said Patmore. “Keean [White] is trying to put together a group to secure a Canadian team for the future.”

Northern Lights team members wholeheartedly give the series high praise. Returning team member Tiffany Foster was only able to ride in two of the team events last year due to some travel issues, but gives the series a big thumbs-up. “It was my first experience with the Major League and I loved it! Any time you have a bunch of Canadians together on a team it’s always a good time.” 🙂

“My favourite takeaway is how simple the format is to follow. I think the more you do it, the more you can apply some strategy, but overall you just have to go clear and fast. It’s true showjumping!”

She believes another bonus is that “it can be a good competition to ride some up-and-coming horses. I plan to ride my faithful partner Brighton, and hopefully a couple of younger horses as they develop throughout the season.”


Discussing the track during a course walk in 2022 with former Northern Lights team member Jim Ifko.

Discussing the track during a course walk in 2022 with former Northern Lights team member Jim Ifko. (Kim Gaudry photo)


New Northern Lights member Nikki Walker said, “What attracted me to joining a team for the Major League this season is the amazing team atmosphere, number of classes for both my more experienced horses and younger horses, and to support some great Canadian shows. Being a Canadian, it is a real pleasure to have shows of such calibre in our country.”

She plans to ride veterans Excellent B and Atout Des Trambles and put some valuable mileage on Matonge of Colors. “My goal for the season is to be helpful to Northern Lights in the team rounds. Beyond that, I would love to step my newer horse up to the five-star grand prix level towards the end of the season.”

Another ‘newbie’, Lexi Ray, said she was attracted to MLSJ “after watching it for the past few years and seeing what a great opportunity it was to jump at a the five-star level within North America. This opportunity is amazing, especially for young up-and-coming riders like myself who would normally have a hard time getting into shows of this calibre.

“The experience this tour can provide is invaluable. After speaking with some of the founders and organizers of MLSJ and hearing such great reviews from friends/fellow competitors about how much they have enjoyed being on a team last season, it was a no-brainer for me to join an MLSJ team this year!”

Ray will be piloting three horses throughout the season: Evita, a 14-year-old KWPN mare who is “such a fighter in the ring and has the biggest heart”; Lukaku vd Bisschop, aka “Luke”, a 12-year-old Belgian warmblood gelding who is “a real competitor in the ring”; and eight-year-old Rocca R.T. OLD, an Oldenburg mare who “continues to impress me every single day.

“My main goal for this season is to gain experience and results at the five-star level, along with being the best teammate I can be and doing everything I can to help the Northern Lights be successful,” says a keen Ray. “I am really excited to be part of this team and I think we are going to do great things this season.”

MLSJ newcomer Eric Krawitt jumped on board because, “I have been watching the league for the past two years and it only seems to be improving. Whether that may be the competitors, the venues or the prize money, MLSJ is getting to be a top league for show jumping in North America. A few friends have also ridden on teams in the past and have only good things to say.”

He will be campaigning Cactus De Cosniere, an 11-year-old gelding he has been partnered with for the past three years, and Chicago CM, a 10-year-old gelding that he has owned for just over a year.

“My goal for the season is to bring some strong rounds to the team events, as well as staying competitive in the individual classes,” he notes. “There are many opportunities to jump some great classes at these shows and at some great venues which I am very excited about.”

Patmore concluded, “For me, the most important aspect is trying to drive home that the goal is to have at least one [MLSJ] team with good Canadian content so that we can keep developing the depth of the national Canadian team, because that seems to have been lacking in the past. You have your five or six top riders that you always draw from for all the big championships, but there’s a big gap between the U25 and the A squad.

“I feel like this is filling a really big void in showjumping, especially for Canadians. It also gives them good experience riding in a team environment so if they get do called up, they have that under their belt.”